Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

NL Central Watch: Brewers start showing their brawn

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the National League Central.

In scoring a season-high 15 runs to throttle the Reds, the Brewers have won 12 of their last 15 to stay slightly ahead of the Cubs in the standings. Ryan Braun missed two games over the weekend because of a sore back, but has five homers in his last 14 games, including a grand slam Wednesday against the Reds. After wrapping up their series in Houston tonight against the Astros, the Cubs open a three-game series in Milwaukee on Friday. The Cubs took two of three against the Brewers last month at Miller Park. When manager Lou Piniella concluded his postgame news conference Tuesday, he walked out of the interview room at Wrigley Field and said: ''We'll see everybody in about a week. Hopefully, we win four of five.''

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz points out that the Cardinals still have plenty of issues, but they also have plenty of time to fix them. It helps being in first place. The Cardinals' Chris Duncan has taken his lumps because of his poor in left field -- after making the transition from first base -- but not only has he been steady at the plate, but Duncan no longer seems like such a liability in the outfield.

Astros ace Roy Oswalt had X-rays on his bruised right index finger, and they were negative, clearing him to make his start Sunday against the Padres. Attached to this Houston Chronicle notebook, check out the video of Cubs fans being interviewed at Minute Maid Park.

After a strong start -- backed by solid pitching -- the Pirates have lost eight of their last nine. They stranded nine runners in the first six innings in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday. In their last six games, the Pirates have hit just .211. Their average with two outs and runners in scoring position is .222, third-worst in the league.

Meanwhile, former Cubs catcher Michael Barrett says he faces a long road to recovery as he tries to come back from a torn muscle behind his throwing shoulder. It could be months before he rejoins the Blue Jays as their backup catcher.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris De Luca published on May 7, 2009 10:27 AM.

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